C+D revealed earlier this month that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines have been submitted to a Department of Health programme board.
Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley and Padiham, said she “will oppose [the proposals] all the way”.
“[Labour] will hold the government to account on this,” Ms Cooper told C+D in an exclusive interview at her party's conference in Brighton on Monday (September 25).
“It's absolutely outrageous – a massive attack on community pharmacists as a profession, but most importantly it affects patient safety,” Ms Cooper said.
“We’re on a very dangerous trajectory,” added Ms Cooper, who used to own and run a community pharmacy with her pharmacist husband.
Pharmacy "on the cheap"
“Pharmacists are the experts when it comes to medication and therapeutic doses and sometimes, not that infrequently, prescriptions are written that aren't safe,” Ms Cooper said. “A dispensing technician doesn't have the expertise.”
Pharmacy technicians do a “fantastic job”, but they are “not the same” as a pharmacist, Ms Cooper stressed.
The Conservative government seems “intent on sticking the boot in”, she said. “They're looking at pharmacy on the cheap.”
Labour stance on pharmacy
“Labour will take community pharmacists seriously, we accord them the respect they deserve,” Ms Cooper said.
The party's last general election manifesto included a pledge to halt pharmacy closures and empower local authorities to protect pharmacies – inclusions Ms Cooper said she had requested.
"We're very serious about working with community pharmacies to develop their increased role," she said. "Labour MPs have in great numbers talked about community pharmacy."
Speaking at a National Pharmacy Association-organised event at the conference, Ms Cooper predicted there will be more funding cuts in store, as pharmacy is an “easy target” and there is a “genuine ignorance in government” about the sector.
“[Some Conservative MPs] seem to be in denial [of] the cause and effect. It is criminal what’s happening.”
“Stand up now”
However, there are MPs “across the house” who value community pharmacy, she said.
Ms Cooper has spoken to Conservative MPs “conflicted” between the “needs of their constituents” and their party’s position, she told C+D.
Ms Cooper said she has told Conservative MPs privately and publicly about the effect of the funding cuts, advising them that “if you don't approve, it's now the time to stand up and say”.